Dani Fava ’00 is different. And she’s ‘beyond fine’ with that.
Alot has changed for Danielle Delgado Fava ’00 since her Wagner College commencement, half a lifetime ago.
Starting with her lawn care routine.
“I have a John Deere lawn tractor now,” Dani said. “My favorite pastime now is putting on my overalls and riding that thing.”
Dani Fava, who majored in business at Wagner College, is the head of strategic development for Envestnet, a 23-year-old financial technology firm with offices in suburban Berwyn, Pennsylvania.
For Dani, life in a historic, rural hamlet outside Philly is still a novelty.
“I was born and raised on Staten Island,” she told us. “I went to Catholic grammar and high school — very Catholic. Very traumatic.
“I was the only Hispanic person in my grade, and I was not out yet. I lived a great, big lie for a really long time.
“Even so,” she reflected, “I don’t know if I would have changed anything about my life, because I love where it led me.”
Dani’s college career started not on Grymes Hill, but at SUNY Albany. Discipline issues forced the freshman to return to Staten Island, where Wagner offered her a transfer scholarship.
“My dad was the only one in his family to go to college,” she said. “He made a nice career for himself, but his siblings were very much the opposite, just kind of bouncing around. I wanted the sort of stable life that my dad had, with a college degree, and I believed at the time that was the only way to do that.”
At Wagner, Dani was strictly a commuter student. “I just went to classes,” she said.
Her college career became especially challenging with her pregnancy.
“I stuck out like a sore thumb on campus,” Dani said, “and it made it a little awkward for me to make friends and have conversations. I tried to stay as ‘under the radar’ as possible.”
Through it all was her fascination with the world of business operations.
“I was very drawn to Wall Street, finance, accounting,” she said. “Actually, I loved accounting in college; I just understood math, any math-related economic business. I had some teachers that I absolutely loved at Wagner.”
Dani’s Wagner education combined with her inclination toward independent problem solving to guide the development of her real-world career.
“I don’t like to learn how to do something,” she explained, “I like to figure out how to do something and create my own solution.”
And that’s exactly what Dani did on her very first job out of college.
At the time she started work, she already had a young daughter she was dropping off at daycare very early each morning.
“I worked for an investment manager,” Dani said, “and one part of my job was to prepare reports every morning and go drop them on everybody’s desk. I had to get in early to get this done before the stock market opened, and I’m thinking, ‘There’s got to be a better way.’ ”
And there was.
“We worked on this [software] platform where you type in commands to get it to respond to you,” she said. “I learned how to get into the system, using its own language, and schedule jobs to run so that, when I came in, these reports would be sitting on the printer, all ready. All I had to do was put a staple in them and drop them on everyone’s desks.”
During diagnostic checks, the software manufacturer discovered what she was doing. They offered her a job, and her career in financial technology innovation was born.
That turning point in her life was followed, a few years later, by another.
Dani’s career was on a roll. She had married; a son had been born.
“I have to say, the moment of coming out was a turning point in my career,” she said. “Up until then, I was faking it — faking being in a happy marriage and having this sort of typical nuclear family. I lied to everyone, and I covered [up] every day. I tried to look the part, be the part, have the same kind of story as everyone else — and I hid everything about myself. That takes a lot of energy and planning … and living in fear sucks!
“After I came out and started living a more authentic life and sharing more with people, that’s when my career sort of skyrocketed. The weight of being something that I was not was just lifted — and then, all of a sudden, my uniqueness became my superpower.”
Stints in product development at Fiserv Investment Services and Citibank led to a long stretch at TD Ameritrade in fintech (financial services technology). In the course of leading highly engaging training sessions for hundreds of fellow fintech professionals on products she had helped develop, Dani became something of a video sensation, with a strong following whenever she appeared as someone’s podcast guest.
All of which led her to where she is today, living in a 220-year-old National Historic Register home and working close to the top of her field at Envestnet, putting powerful, hi-tech investment tools in the hands of more and more ordinary people.
“I have learned through trial and error that I can no longer cover up who I am,” Dani said, “nor do I want to, nor will I spend energy doing it. I just go out there. I am myself, and people accept me or they don’t, and I don’t spend any time worrying about it. I can work with anyone.
“I really believe my different point of view and my different experiences make me valuable to the company, to the industry. It’s what makes me different, or else I would just be like everyone else.
“And I’m fine — no, beyond fine — with that.”